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DHSC: Community pharmacies won’t be issuing fit notes after law change

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DHSC: Community pharmacies won’t be issuing fit notes after law change

Community pharmacists will not be issuing fit notes signing patients off work under planned legal changes, the Department of Health and Social Care has confirmed.

Under new legislation set to come into effect on July 1, pharmacists – in certain settings – nurses and physiotherapists will be able to write fit notes after a patient has been off work for seven days. The Government hopes this will free up GPs to deal with more complex cases.

The DHSC told Pharmacy Network News this afternoon: “This policy change is aimed at pharmacists working within general practices or hospital settings where they are able to assess patient’s fitness for work. 

“Therefore, the intention is that ‘where’ the fit note is issued will remain the same but ‘who’ issues it will change.

“As whole professions are named in legislation, any registered practicing doctor, nurse, occupational therapist, pharmacist or physiotherapist can legally issue a fit note. 

“Private providers, such as high street pharmacies are unable to provide the 'Med3' - which is the technical name for fit note provided for free under NHS provision. Therefore, receiving a fit note from a private provider is likely to incur an additional cost.  

“Fit notes should only be issued following a full assessment of a patient's fitness for work, therefore would be an unsuitable service to be provided ‘over the counter’."

Health secretary Sajid Javid has reportedly lobbied the DWP to make the change, while primary care minister Maria Caulfield described it as “another step towards helping to deliver an extra 50 million appointments in general practice a year by 2024”.

Royal Pharmaceutical Society president Claire Anderson said: “Pharmacists are taking on increasingly clinical roles, and the provision of a fit note may be an appropriate part of. Consultation with a patient.

“However, we have a number of concerns that must be addressed to enable pharmacists to provide fit notes.

“First, although pharmacists working in general practices have access to medical records, this is not the case for community pharmacists: it is essential that this is changed to ensure pharmacists have access to all the information required to be able to safely issue a fit note.

“Second, pharmacists already have a significant workload so additional roles must be properly planned for and funded services developed.

“Finally, it is essential that the public is given clear information about where fit notes can be obtained from and not misled that they can be provided by all pharmacists.”

Dr Gary Howsam, vice chair of the Royal College of GPs, said that as well as freeing up time for GPs the move would “recognise the role of some members of the wider practice team in giving patients advice”.

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